For the benefit of solvers new to the rigours of the Advanced Cryptic, Dr Watson provides a monthly review of the Observer’s Azed competition puzzle. Dr Watson is a regular Azed competitor. Please post any comments on this review to the Crossword Centre’s message board.

Azed No 1862 ‘Spoonerisms’ (3 Feb 2008)

It’s a long time since the last full Spoonerisms puzzle (no 1674 in June 2004), though a Spoonerism clue was required for CLOTHES SENSE in the 2006 Christmas competition. In this puzzle solvers are looking for two types of clue: those in which the definition leads to a Spoonerism of the solution (A in the notes); and those in which the clue contains a Spoonerism of the definition (B). The second type of clue is easier to spot and solve because the Spoonerised material is provided in the clue, and an expression like ‘hoes Gaia’ in 13a stands out prominently. The first type can rarely be solved without some letters in place unless the wordplay is particularly friendly. As all the clues rely on homophones, solvers well may find themselves muttering the Spoonerisms, and the vagaries of pronunciation inevitably play a part in how accurately a clue seems to read. Azed opts for received (or SE English) pronunciation, which could, for example, leave those who like their A’s short questioning whether ‘darn Faust’ can become ‘down fast’. That’s all part of the fun of course, and overall the clues takes no sweeping liberties with spoken English, though solvers need to beware of words like CREMASTER, and Dr Watson thinks Azed should probably have paid more attention to PURSLANE in Chambers.

Dr Watson is looking forward to seeing what competitors have done with UNALIKE – a pretty difficult cluing prospect even without phonetic contortions.

Notes to the clues:


10.    Isle-wrought wine, not opening temperature  OKAY (B; all right; (t)okay).  This reminded Dr Watson of Neil Kinnock’s hubristic Labour Party rally before the 1992 election where he took to the stage shouting ‘Well orrrl right!’

11.    Albanian about to turn out skill at the keyboard?  ARGONAUT (A; organ art; go in Arnaut).  Dr Watson’s favourite amongst this type of clue. The definition is more attractive because it encompasses to the whole Spoonerism in one rather than in separate parts. ‘Arnaut’ or ‘Arnaout’ is an Albanian soldier in the Turkish army.

13.    College branch with spades hoes Gaia.  CLIMBS (B; goes higher; C limb S).  A nice image that makes up for a rather forced Spoonerism.

19.    Paul’s clan in play, the main turns including spilt bluid.  AUDIBLES (B; calls plan; anag. in sea, rev.).  The unusual verb is a term from American football.

23.    Knitted jacket, reddish, mistress put round king, old fool.  LARDY-CAKE (A; cardy lake; R in lady + cake).  A very comfy combination of knitwear and teatime food. The ‘lake’ in question is lake1, a red colour.

28.    Goalie loafer? Ball’s found in net, perhaps.  PEON (B; lowly gofer; 0 in pen).  The Spoonerised definition fits perfectly with the wordplay.

29.    Press arrogant youngster to kill when accepting bit of Romanian cash.  PILE-UP (A; lie pup; leu in pip).  One of the hardest clues, even for a solver who knows his or her currencies. The Spoonerism doesn’t come naturally, and lie2 for ‘press’ is obscure, as is pip3 for ‘kill’.

31.    Market sketch (satirical) is greatly amusing within group.  SKILL SET (A; sell skit; kills in set).  The transformation here is both consonantal and vocalic. Azed goes out of his way to provide precise definitions of the component parts of the wordplay.

34.    Disparagement hurt (left one in funds).  PURSLANE (A; slur pain; l an in purse).  Chambers begs to differ on the pronunciation of ‘purslane’, showing it phonetically as ‘purse-lin’.


1.      Maybe ranker slice of meat completely in exchange after fish. CODSWALLOP (A; swad collop; cod + all in swap).  Dr Watson puzzled over the definitions of ‘wad’ and ‘scallop’ for quite some time before finding the correct transposition. ‘Swad’ and ‘collop’ are dialect terms for a soldier and a piece of meat.

7.      Dealer in bar kits etc. upset Puritan.  UNIPART (B; car bits; anag.).  One of the proper names mentioned in the footnote, a UK car spares supplier.

16.    About to make fresh original copy of (offensively) Catholic screen lines.  CREMASTER (A; Mick raster; c re-master).  This time Azed has checked the Chambers pronunciation to ensure the Spoonerism is accurate.

18.    I love licence in a TV broadcast one watched in mad decline at the set?  VIOLETTA (B; sad decline at the Met; I 0 let in anag.).  The consumptive heroine of Verdi’s La Traviata … now appearing in an entertaining long-distance Spoonerism.

24.    I vend purses – some broke at stitching .  KEATS (B; penned verses; hidden).  The last of the proper names gets an economical treatment.

25.    Inexperienced French maid brought life embracing love.  BORON (A; raw bonne; 0 in born).  The Spoonerism isn’t an obvious one, but it works after a few tries.

27.    Darn Faust show stopper coming up.  GULP (B; down fast; plug, rev.).  The otherwise redundant ‘show’ creates a good surface reading.

Other solutions:

Across: 1. CATCH-PIT (A; patch kit; cat + p in chit);  7. URSA (B; bear she; hidden);  12. DEBILE (A; bead aisle; I in anag.);  15. SNED (B; scythe handle; dens(e), rev.);  17. HAIR-WAVER (A; wear haver; I + anag. all in h aver2);  22. GEMSTONE (A; stem (St.) Joan; me, rev. + st all in gone);  30. TANTRA (B; holy writ; hidden);  32. ATOM (B; tiny speck; (an)atom(y);  33. TEXT (B; sermon’s gist; ex. in TT).  Down: 2. AKENE (B; dry fruit; (we)akene(d));  3. TABERDAR (A; dabber tar; TA + anag.);  4. HALFA (B; coarse fibre; half + a.);  5. PREDILECT (A; D— prelect; red in pile + Ct.);  6. TOLA (A; lota; a lot, rev.);  8. RAMI (B; branches of tree; 2 meanings);  9. SUBTEEN (A; tub seen; anag. + en(d));  14. STREET NAME (A; straight neem; re Etna in anag.);  20. UNALIKE;  21. INDWELT (A; end wilt; in D welt);  26. FLIX (B; down on beavers; ‘flicks’).